It’s August and Ben McAdoo and Steve Spagnuolo are collecting unemployment checks. Frank Cignetti gets to revive his career “coaching” Aaron Rodgers. Adam Henry took what amounts to a demotion by moving to Cleveland. Kevin M. Gilbride is teaching another set of tight ends in Chicago. Mike Solari has to clean up Tom Cable’s mess in Seattle. The list goes on, but the point is that the New York Giants’ coaching staff was gutted after missing the playoffs five times in the last six years.
One newcomer, James Bettcher, is tasked with coordinating a defense that allowed the 3rd most explosive pass plays in the league last year. There’s one problem; he’s in a division that requires game-planning against the Super Bowl Philadelphia Eagles at least twice a year. That’s a problem.
Bettcher understands how this dangerous this could be for his long-term employment. He experienced the Eagles attack firsthand in Week 5 as defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals. The game was over before it started; the Eagles first three drives went for 16 plays, 133 yards and 21 points. Bettcher was outclassed by the Eagles scheme, undone by the match-ups create, and buried by the execution on the field.
“In 2017 with the Cardinals, Bettcher blitzed 37% of the time to get extreme pressure on the quarterback and that was with the 2017 sack leader Chandler Jones on his unit.
With more rushers up front that means more responsibility on the back end, especially in man coverage; the Cardinals were also a top 5 team when it comes to playing Cover 1 defense..”
The Eagles understood Bettcher’s tendencies and got the pre-snap look they expected.
To combat 6-man pressure and man coverage, Carson Wentz audibled to a slant-flat concept that could’ve converted easily on two different routes. First, the Zach Ertz vs. Tyvon Branch match-up was favorable for the Eagles and one they would exploit throughout the game. Don’t let the diagram mislead you, this is a slant by Ertz, who extends his release outside to move Branch outside, thus expanding his space to utilize inside.
The second available option comes on a flat route from Kenjon Barner. The blitz arrives too quick for Wentz and it’s not necessary with Ertz winning his assignment and creating early separation with physicality at the top of his route.
Less than two minutes of game time later the Eagles offense faced another 3rd & 11, this time from the Arizona 34-yard line. This is a lesson in winning at the release point by Alshon Jeffery. Patrick Peterson crowds him pre-snap and gives Jeffery a few indicators that he’s going to receive a “quick jam” at the snap.
Peterson nearly drew a flag pre-snap for coming into contact with Jeffery, this along with Peterson’s staggered feet and forward lean indicate a quick jam. Against a normal press, Jeffery would bring his feet parallel by bringing his back foot forward to come to balance and work his release from there.
Against a quick jam, Jeffery has to alter his approach. One option is a “scooch” release. The scooch starts with a “rocker step” that requires Jeffery to lean back, taking a 6” step backwards with his back foot. Jeffery would then “whip” the elbow of Petersons’ outstretched arm with his release-side hand to clear a path for his release. In this case, Jeffery wants to achieve an inside release, so he would club Peterson’s elbow with his right hand.
The other way to combat a quick jam is the “slide step”.
Jeffery brings his front foot back to come to balance, create a two-way go, and allow space for him to avoid the lunge with a “rip”. From current Minnesota Vikings’ wide reciever coach Darrell Hazell’s Ohio State coaching manual:
“Drop the near shoulder to the defender. Turn your upper torso away so your back is to him. Punch through with the near arm. Rip your arm violently to break his hand off (keep your hips upfield).”
Jeffery’s slide and rip leave Peterson not quite empty handed, as he steals Jeffery’s hand towel, but by his fifth step Jeffery has him well beaten. Jeffery hits the top of his route, snaps his chin back to Wentz and hauls in an accurate pass placed away from Peterson’s grasp for 16 yards and a first down. To summarize, Jeffery beat one of the best corners in the game with safety help on 3rd & 11 by executing his technique at a higher level than Peterson. Oh and he had a torn rotator cuff, but we knew that.
After two red zone touchdowns the Eagles led 14-0 in the first quarter. Up against 3rd & 5 from their own 41-yard line, the Eagles exploited another mismatch. With Torrey Smith lined up across from cornerback Justin Bethel, this pre-snap look had Smith putting his hands out as if to say, “Carson, DO. YOU. SEE. THIS?” He did.
I scouted Bethel’s 2016 tape for the Scouting Academy last summer and highlighted his match-up as one to exploit. Why? Beyond the speed factor, when Bethel was pressed into action as an outside corner, the results were bad. He is much more comfortable as a nickel. Additionally, I had these notes on Bethel that screamed “take a shot” if the opportunity presented itself:
“Gets feet crossed when turning to run with vertical routes with extra steps needed to accelerate.. Liability against speedy wide receivers on vertical routes; consistently loses a step as vertical routes progress.. Adequate ball skills; struggles to locate ball when out of phase, panics when beat and will turn early when not in phase.”
Run the tape...
That’s easy money. Smith eats cushion, closing in quickly to Bethel’s blind spot and Bethel lacks the fluidity, footwork, and acceleration out of his turn to keep pace. The result is a 59-yard touchdown to put the Eagles up 21-0. The Cardinals wouldn’t recover.
If the Giants hope to contend with the Eagles in 2018, they’ll need Bettcher to plug the dam that exploded last year. That’s a reference to both the Giants secondary and to the Great Flood of Week 5. Can he turn it around? I would Bettcher... on it... wait... I had something for this. You can Bettcher bottom dollar that... nope, that’s not it either. Alright, I’m just going to slowly trail off as we fade to black.